At least that was what they were doing just before I entered the room.
"Benson! So good to see you," exclaimed the Professor!
"Sorry Aarron, I just stopped by to say hi to Alicia, I've got a really important interview with some foreign guy."
"Come on buddy, stay a bit."
I'll say it now . . . I was unnerved. Now when I say unnerved, I don't mean in a "wow, this is weird" sense but rather a "oh crap, I'm gonna die" sense. Aarron is never anyones buddy. Worse yet, everyone seemed really excited about my being there. They were all kind of closing in on me like zombies do in a horror flick.
"Why are you screaming Mister Benson?"
"You're going to eat my brain!"
"What. Come on we'd never eat your brain."
That was Aarron's sweet daughter.
"Not without Tabasco sauce anyway."
She's turning into her father.
"No Uncle Craig, we are just really bored. This Saturday morning is really sucking. It's only 10 a.m. and there are no good cartoons on."
"So Alicia, find something else to do."
Vince whipped his head towards me. "You don't seem to understand Benson, it's ten in the morning and there are no good toons on the TV." Alicia was nodding her agreement with Hozehead.
I walked over to the window and opened the drapes. "See the sun out there? It's a beautiful morning. Why don't you get your bikes and go for a ride."
Miss Chance slid up next to me. "Don't you understand Mister Benson, it's not noon. Where are the cartoons?"
I was getting really scared. I would have accepted Alicia's distress. She is a late teen who was raised in Japan where the cartoons are really good. I could also accept Vince's involvement in this whining . . . after all he is Vince. But Mercedes, she was an intelligent woman, with several degrees. Sure she likes to discharge firearms at the most inopportune times, but hey, everyone has their little idiosyncrasies.
That was when Aarron got in front of my face. He had a real nervous look about his face and he was damn close to creepy. "Don't you get it man! Western Civilization is going to hell in a quick fashion! It's ten in the damn morning and there are no cartoons on! What the hell has happened to the United By God States of America? Why? Tell me why?"
"Aarron, I'm going to ask a question of all of you, and I don't want any of you to take it as a personal attack, but what in the name of Doug is all of your problems? Big damn deal if there are no cartoons on, there are other things to do on a Saturday. All of them a hell of a lot better that sitting in front of a television, stuffing your face with overly sweet cereal and trying to decide weather you really can order stuff from the Acme corporation."
"You can't, we've tried."
When all of the people in the room made that last statement in unison, I decided it was time for me to leave . . . quickly.
Aarron put his hand on my shoulder. "Benson, I think you're not getting our drift here."
"Oh, I'm pretty sure I am. You're all quite insane."
"None of us are insane . . . well, all of us except Vince. We fully plan on doing something other than watch the idiot box as soon as both of the mouse's hands are on twelve."
"I'm going to finish up my research for my thesis debunking past-life regression therapy," said Mercedes as she joined Aarron.
Alicia moved in next. "And I'm going to Ken Ripley's house to help him study for the Algebra test this Monday."
Aarron added, "of course I'm finishing up the plans for our little expedition to the Yucatan next month."
Damn, I though he had forgotten about that. I looked at Vince for his input to this convenient series of statements.
"Actually, I'm just going to sit here on my ass all day watching the idiot box."
"Then what's the big deal. You either start your little projects early, or wait the two hours out."
"But it doesn't answer the fundamental question we're asking?"
"What happened to the days when cartoons were on from six to noon and there was nothing wrong with it being that way. Oh sure, towards the end of the morning the shows started to get a little weak . . . the Smurfs, Fat Albert and those specials. But now, you have to pull teeth to see even a crappy cartoon after ten. Worse yet it's not that they are starting any earlier. Why?"
"This is the problem?"
"Think about it Benson. What sort of social upheavel has occured behind our back to have changed such a rock-solid institution. What happened to the great fundamental ideal that Saturday morning was for kids . . . a time to wind down from five days of school, and bullies and homework and chores. The only day of rest for most kids because Sunday meant church and family activities and going to bed early because school was the next day. Saturday was the time to get wired up of cruddy cereal and run around and tear the house up."
"Aarron, this is no big deal. They're only cartoons. Times change and so do kids. Hell, I loved Speed Racer but it was violent."
The Professor jumped next to me. "Come on Benson, kids have not changed that much in ten years. It's not the kids but the fact that Saturday mornings have been so bastardized. The cartoons used to be cool; Johnny Quest, Scooby Doo . . . now those were cartoons, not some Disney generated crap."
Vince piped in. "Yeah, we're talking about explosive death dealing action packed spookiness . . . all of the things a kid could want."
Graves broke in "Exactly, and what are the people who program Saturday mornings trying to do? I'll tell you they're turning our children into a bunch of nerds. Speed Racer used to run dudes over, with exploding cars and fist fights. Hell, Robotech was better than a Grade B slasher flick in the kill department. Now the evil trend seems to be an executive saying 'hey, The Flintstones worked good back in the sixties, what if we make them little kids? Children will naturally like them more than the grown-up versions.' Let me tell you all right now, they were wrong."
"Sure Aarron, they were great cartoons for our generation and the stuff we see today is tripe but back then we had a little sense. TV didn't affect us, because our parents would slap us around is we got out of line. Today's class of kids are affected by TV, it is too violent for them," said Hozler.
"Tell me another one Vince, I enjoy it when you make me laugh. What happened in the last eight to ten years that all of a sudden made kids any different? Kids aren't as stupid as everyone thinks they are. Adults like us seem to think that the fact that kids are violent and screwed up is due to TV when in reality it is due to the fact that parents don't raise their children. Let someone else raise my kid, it's the schools responsibility, blah blah blah. And worse yet is the fact that pinhead psychologists and sociologists sit there and say it's okay to do this. Someone gives these people a masters degree in clinical studies and suddenly everyone has changed."
I was starting to side with the Professor. "Yeah and it gets worse from there, they say there is too much violence so to change this situation, every channel on the entire UHF and VHF spectrum feels obligated to show wrestling. I don't know about you Vince but these guys sort of act violent."
"It's all fake Mister Benson, even I know that."
"Yes Vince but do kids realize that. What makes live wrestling any different from a cartoon? NOTHING! Only some dysfunctional doctor trying to sell his book. Sure it teaches kids the basic values of good and evil but after ten thousand sleeper holds it gets old. More importantly, even the most mentally retarded child on the planet can understand that cartoons are not real people, but what about a person you can actually touch. Cartoons don't kill, the people who watch them do."
Score one for Graves. Vince had paused to grasp what the Professor had just said. I on the other hand was following him perfectly and for once while being around Graves I felt like I was able to input some valuable data.
Not for long.
"But here comes the weird part gents, from two till five there seems to be this void . . . nothing! That's where the really violent stuff comes on. Between fishing shows, some political weasel arguing over the state of affairs in Tongo, and bad movies that can't even make it to video I have to really try hard not to vomit. This is where people get violent. After Joe Bob Armstrong tells me how to reel in a 65 pound bass I want to blow up my TV."
The Professor paused to wipe off the foam that was at the corners of his mouth. "In the old days after the cartoons were over I could expect to see non-stop Godzilla or Kung-Fu flicks. Saturday morning was a TV fans dream come true . . . I mean there are seven, count them seven decapitations in Terror of the Shao-Lin Warriors. Do any of you remember Gamera the flying turtle? This guy had afterburners for legs, did the Tokyo stomp at least five times a week and was a national hero. What more could you ask for in a flick? Did it make me want to kill my neighbor because I saw it on the tube . . . no, I made a bologna sandwich and waited for the next Fu flick.
Graves was right . . . fanatical but right. I'd like to see Hulk Hogan go up against Drunken Fist and his five fingers of death. Now that would be a bloodbath of epic proportions. Then I realized it. We had gone past that noon thing that all of them were bitching about . . . I had been suckered into a stupid debate over TV. "You sat on your ass a lot as a kid didn't you?"
"It's noon and you are still sitting on your ass talking about TV shows. Maybe it's a good thing that cartoons don't fill six solid hours of television. Maybe it's a good thing that there are no kung-fu movies on. Maybe It's time all of us just grow up a little and get over it."
"Hey! Channel 63 is showing the entire run of Star Blazers!"
"Then again, maybe we'll all just sit on our asses and watch cartoons."